This Shoot Makes Athletes Play With a Fireball

All images by Ray Demski. Used with permission.

“I always try to keep shooting personal work, and coming up with new ideas (of stuff) I’d like to shoot…” says photographer Ray Demski about his Fireball photo project. “Sometimes just throwing out crazy, often impossible ideas until something sticks.” For Fireball, he put some thought into how he could take freestyle football (or soccer as we call it in the US) to the next level. Then he thought about using a fireball.

“A fireball.. that would be spectacular.. and difficult,” Ray thought to himself. “…a lot of research and a month later I was doing the first tests with our SFX coordinator, it was amazing!”

The ideas grew from doing a few tricks with the ball and they eventually created something sort of like a game. To do this, they hired Parkour athlete Lucas Wilson. And there it was, combining freestyle football vs parkour for an epic game situation. Then the idea of adding a beatboxer came from choreographer Jasmine Ellis when they were brainstorming music for the video.

Phoblographer: What were some logistical problems you needed to figure out?

Athlete: Christian Kerschdorfer

Athlete: Christian Kerschdorfer

Ray: Our location was massive; and on our passion project budget i.e. out of my pocket. There was no way we could afford enough flickerfree HMI light to light the entire hall at once. So we had to break down the shooting into 5 distinct “acts” or “sets” where reset the light completely trying to fake the hall being lit. Even with two 4ks, and one 1600w one 800w flicker free HMIs we had just barely enough light. Shooting pretty much everything wide open at f1.4 at higher ISOs than I would have liked.

Phoblographer: How did you go about lighting the photos?

Athlete: Christian Kerschdorfer

Athlete: Christian Kerschdorfer

Ray: For the photos we had to shoot during the daylight hours, as we had to get it all done in one day and needed to save time for the film. It meant using powerful battery flash units with Broncolor modifiers to overpower the daylight and shape the light.

I love the light quality and control of parabolics, I used the Broncolor Para 88 one of my favourite light modifiers as a main light and a Broncolor Strip soft box as a fill. Sometimes with an extra kicker light with just a standard reflector behind or off to the side.

Phoblographer: What gear did you use?

Models: Lucas Wilson, Christian Kerschdorfer and Madox.

Models: Lucas Wilson, Christian Kerschdorfer and Madox.

Ray: For the photos I used a Nikon D810 DSLR camera with Nikkor lenses, mostly the 35mm f/1.4 and 24-70 f/2.8. Flashes were triggered with pocket wizard radio trigger units, flash was a mixed bag of Broncolor Para 88 and a large strip soft box powered by an Elinchrom Ranger Speed and Profoto B4.

The Fireball film was shot on the Sony F55 camera with AXS-R5 RAW recorder. Shooting high speed footage at 100 to 200 frames per second allowed us to get the amazing slow motion. At those frame rates the camera needs a lot of light though! We had 2x 4kw, 1x1600w and 1x800w HMI units with high speed ballasts for light and very fast prime lenses (f/1.4)

Portrait of beatboxer, Madox

Portrait of beatboxer, Madox

I think it was a 7.5 ton truck full of lighting gear and stands, but really could have used more raw power! Nearly all of the shots are handheld or from the shoulder operated by our cinematographer Clemens Krüger. For the tracking shots we used a dolly with soft rubber wheels which saved us a lot of time not needing to lay track.

Big thank you to my amazing crew who put in their energy from start to finish to bring this project to life!

Portrait of beatboxer, Madox

Portrait of beatboxer, Madox